Honorary Associates of Rationalist International
Prof. Paul Kurtz (USA)
(1925 – 2012)
Paul Kurtz, American skeptic, founder of modern secular-humanist movement and philosopher, passed away on 20 October 2012. He was 86 years old. He was Honorary Associate of Rationalist International and also Honorary Associate of Rationalist Association (formerly RPA) of UK . In 1999 Kurtz received International Humanist Award by the IHEU, and in 2000 he received International Rationalist Award by the Rationalist International.
He authored 50 books and nearly 800 articles. Many of his books have been translated into over 60 languages. They include The Transcendental Temptation, Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism, The Courage to Become, and Multi-Secularism: A New Agenda. His published bibliography of writings from 1952 to 2003 runs over 79 pages
Paul Kurtz was largely responsible for the secularization of humanism. Before Kurtz embraced the term “secular humanism," which had received wide publicity through fundamentalist Christians in the 1980s, humanism was more widely perceived as a religion (or a pseudo-religion that did not include the supernatural. This can be seen in the first article of the original Humanist Manifesto which refers to "Religious Humanists" and by Charles and Clara Potter's influential 1930 book Humanism: A New Religion.
In 1969, Kurtz founded the publishing house Prometheus Books. He was also the founder and past chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)), the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Center for Inquiry. On May 18, 2010, he resigned from all these positions.
He was editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Humanist Laureate, Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, president of the International Academy of Humanism and Honorary Associate of Rationalist Association (formerly Rationalist Press Association) of UK.
As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto. He was a former editor of The Humanist, 1967-1978. The asteroid (6629) Kurtz was named in his honor.
Kurtz used the publicity generated by fundamentalist preachers to grow the membership of the Council for Secular Humanism, as well as strip the religious aspects found in the earlier humanist movement.
He founded the Center for Inquiry in 1991. There are now some 40 Centers and Communities worldwide, including in Los Angeles, Washington, New York City, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Moscow, Beijing, Hyderabad, Toronto, Dakar, Buenos Aires and Kathmandu. Following his resignation from the Center for Inquiry, Paul Kurtz launched the Institute for Science and Human Values as a separate entity.
Kurtz was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research
Kurtz was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Sara Lasser and Martin Kurtz. Kurtz received his bachelor's degree from New York University, and the Master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University. Kurtz was left-wing in his youth, but has said that serving in the United States Army in World War II taught him the dangers of ideology. He saw the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps after they were liberated, and became disillusioned with Communism when he encountered Russian slave laborers who had been taken to Nazi Germany by force but refused to return to the Soviet Union at the end of the war.
Sanal Edamaruku (President of Rationalist International and President of the Indian Rationalist Association) and Pekka Elo (President of the Finnish Humanist Union and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International) in a joint statement issued at Helsinki, Finland, have condoled the demise of Paul Kurtz.
In Praise of Rationalism” - Inaugural address of Paul Kurtz during the 2nd International Rationalist Conference held at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India on 17-21 January 2000.